Concerning the brief, fleeting romance between a woman who writes audio descriptions for films and her harshest critic, an all but totally blind man, Naomi Kawase’s thinly-sketched Radiance feels designed to court claims of poignancy. The pair clash repeatedly as she tries to lend assistance he thinks he doesn’t need and he tells her she is horrible at her job. Throughout, from its invocation of cinema as an experience shared across gaps of ability to its focus on an ex-photographer gone blind, there’s a sense that all of this is meant to resonate deeply. But because the film is so often satisfied to lifelessly plod through the motions of a middling drama so light it might evaporate, there’s not enough here to engage with past the surface. It’s a nice surface, admittedly: the film is gorgeously lit and capably acted, the visuals serene and understated. But when used only to convey supposedly profound metaphor, even Radiance‘s naturalism feels like yet another cloying contrivance.
Published as part of Toronto International Film Festival 2017 | Dispatch 1.